Why Japan Thought Pearl Harbor Would Quickly Win the War

Warfare History Network

Key point: America's aircraft carriers weren't at Pearl Harbor and the attack aroused U.S. anger to win at any cost.

It was, as the phrase goes, another perfect day in paradise. As the sun rose above the Pacific in the clear, cloudless sky east of the Hawaiian Islands, on December 7, 1941, the giant U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu, was just beginning to stir.

At 6:30 am, USS Antares (AKS-3), a U.S. Navy stores and supply ship of more than 11,000 tons, was approaching the mouth of the inlet leading into Pearl Harbor towing a steel barge. On the bridge of Antares was her skipper, Commander Lawrence C. Grannis. He suddenly noticed an unexpected object about 1,500 yards off the starboard quarter, something that looked suspiciously like the conning tower of a submarine.

Grannis was indeed correct. The conning tower belonged to a 46-ton, 78-foot-long Type A Japanese midget submarine that carried two torpedoes and a two-man crew. It was one of five brought from Japan by five I-class mother submarines and launched five or six hours before the planned 8:00 am aerial attack was set to begin. Its mission was to enter the harbor, lie in wait, and torpedo whatever ships it could find once the general attack was underway.

As Antares was unarmed, Grannis radioed the nearby destroyer Ward of his finding; officers aboard Ward confirmed the sighting and at 6:40 went to general quarters. There was no reason why a submarine should be lurking in that area, especially one that appeared to be trying to sneak into the harbor behind Antares during the brief minutes when the narrow channel’s antisubmarine nets would be open.

Closing quickly on the submarine, which was now about five miles from the harbor’s entrance, Ward’s skipper, Captain William Outerbridge, brought the destroyer to within 50 yards of the unidentified craft and gave the order to fire. The first salvo of four-inch shells missed, but then a round struck the conning tower at the waterline and the boat keeled over. As the sub passed beneath Ward’s hull, depth charges were dropped on it. It popped to the surface momentarily, then went under for good.

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